Rethink Higher Education (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture
Friday, December 2, 2011

If you think about the university nowadays, we offer semesters based on agrarian calendars even though few to none of our students are actively engaged in farming. Our semesters and courses are designed in 15-week blocks of times. What's so special about 15 weeks? Material is presented linearly. Which means if you miss a concept in a chemistry course, you're in serious trouble come the final. Everything drives from the concept you missed. Because we're working with 20 to upwards of 300 students in one class, we orient the material and the rate and everything we do in the classroom around the middle of the class. For those who are struggling, it's very difficult to help get them up to the middle; those who're bored are doing nothing when they could be doing more advanced work.

Much of what we do in higher education — from the way we teach to the administrative structure we use to carry out the mission — has been around for hundreds of years and perhaps even a thousand of years going back to the formation of Oxford and Cambridge. So the question then becomes, is that structure appropriate for the challenges facing higher education both within the state of Arkansas and indeed across the nation?

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